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March 31, 2013

Louisville pressure and quickness too much for Duke

INDIANAPOLIS - In an Elite-Eight matchup that almost had a national title game feel, between two of college's perennial powerhouses, Duke and Louisville, the showdown between the Blue Devils and Cardinals had all the makings to be a good one.

However, with a raucous pro-Louisville crowd at Lucas Oil Stadium Sunday afternoon, it was speedy guard play and defensive pressure by Louisville that turned out to make the difference in the contest.

The game was a nail-biter from the start, but after a final tie at 42 all in the second half it was a Louisville (33-5) run spurred by guards Peyton Siva and Russ Smith that broke the contest wide open handing Duke (30-6) a season-ending 85-63 loss and giving Louisville a Final Four berth.

Heading into Sunday's contest well prepared, senior Ryan Kelly knew that Louisville's full-court pressure defense was tough, and would be a lot to handle.

"Louisville, their pressure has been great throughout the tournament and really this stretch run towards the end of the season they have been playing tremendously," Kelly said.

Louisville's pressure was great indeed and it lasted the entire duration of the game.

The Cardinals got off to a fast start, and it was Duke's big men that rose to the challenge. Keeping the Blue Devils alive on the offensive front, Ryan Kelly and Mason Plumlee combined for Duke's first 11 points of the game.

Despite the strong play from the duo, Kelly, however, picked up his second foul at the 12:10 mark letting Louisville convert an old-fashioned three-point play while he had to a take a seat on the bench. When he finally did get back in the contest he picked up a quick third foul while defending Siva and Louisville was able to convert a layup and take the narrow 19-17 advantage.

"That's part of the game," Kelly said. "It happens. I certainly didn't want to be on the bench, but that happens and I don't think it affected my performance whatsoever."

With Kelly on the bench, and Louisville's defense limiting Duke's offensive productivity, it was fast paced Cardinal play and defensive pressure in the remaining part of the half that caused some issues for Duke offensively.

"It (Louisville's) is a different defense," head coach Mike Krzyzewski said. "You don't see it on a day-to-day basis, because it's not just running a zone press, they run multiple defenses. But all of them played hard. They all played really hard."

Turnovers off of Louisville's full court pressure led to easy Cardinal points and helped to spark Louisville's 8-2 run over the course of a three-minute span pushing the score back in Louisville's favor, making it 21-20.

Unfortunately for the Blue Devils, Louisville remained a constant nag defensively and due to the Cardinals' high pressure full-court defense, they forced Duke to finish the first half trailing 35-32, coughing up the ball 10 times.

Despite all the turnovers and Kelly's foul trouble, plus the fact that Curry and Rasheed Sulaimon had not scored, Duke felt pretty good at their chances at the break.

"No, we did (feel good)," Krzyzewski said. "We felt that - you get in a little bit of a frenzy when you're playing them. And here - and we're going to get the ball to start out the half."

After going scoreless in the first half, a re-energized Seth Curry scored Duke's first eight points of the second and helped the Blue Devils overcome a six point deficit to knot action at 42 apiece. Curry credits Louisville's tough defense as to why he was silent offensively in the opening half of action.

"I was trying not to force it (my shot)," Curry said. "My teammates were getting good looks in the first half. And like I said, I wasn't trying to take bad shots and force anything. But they (Louisville) did a good job in the first half of just being conscious of where I was at all times and switching a lot of stuff. Credit them."

In what appeared to be a continued back and forth affair, after the contest was tied for one last time at 42, it was a 20-4 Louisville streak midway through the second half that changed the entire game for the Cardinals.

"Louisville is a great team and we knew we had to take care of the ball coming into it," freshman Rasheed Sulaimon said. "And I thought we did a good job in the beginning but in the second half we let that get away from us and we didn't make our normal shots. I thought they did a great job of pressuring us. They got on a run and they had the crowd on their side and they had the momentum."

Louisville guards Siva and Smith accounted for nine points during the spurt, but were able to control the pace of the game in Cardinals' favor. The stellar guards combined for 39 points in the contest.

"Russ Smith and Peyton Siva, they are a different type," Sulaimon said. "They really attack you. They are smaller but they are very quick and they put pressure on you. They were a load to handle especially to keep in front and keep out of the lane."

Feeling the pressure and unable to adjust to Louisville's suffocating defense, Duke went stone cold from the field going a little over eight minutes without a field goal.

"Just in the second half we weren't able to score and they were," Tyler Thornton said. "They have good athletes in the big spot and they did a good job of blocking our shots when we got to the rim. And we had a lot of shots that we wanted but we didn't knock them down. It was hard to guard guys like that (eluding to Siva and Smith), who are really quick and can handle the ball. I think we did a good job to a certain extent; we just weren't able to convert on the offensive end."

Coach Krzyzewski notes Louisville's athleticism and defenses as the difference in this game.

"Again, I don't watch all of college basketball," Krzyzewski said. "But it's the best team we've played. They have depth and they keep coming at you. And in switching their defenses and their quickness and athleticism, you have to - it's tough to run plays. And, again, for Rick and his kids, congratulations. Great, great job. I'll enjoy watching them now that we're not playing them."


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